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Published: April 28th 2020
As day three Dawn's upon our souls. We start the journey to the capital. Present in the moment, as only Iceland can teach you to do. We follow the highway upon what I expected to be an ordinary drive filled with the same scenery as the days before. Be warned Iceland really sucks at ordinary and mundane. Roads that turn into cliff climbs, bring us up a few hundred feet of elevation. The clouds hanging low, their wispy fingers brushing the car, leaving fingerprints of dew upon the paints surface. We wind or way along this Highway of unexpected pleasure, I never knew a transfer route to be so scenic. Cars whir past us with no real sense of hurry. The light low and flat, but our senses tuned in to the frequency of the world. The greens become more vibrant, yellow splotches of lichen sprayed like paint across exposed rocks. Clouds playing around the peaks in the distance. The black tarmac threading between the peaks with skill and careful planning. Little carns popping up purportedly the homes of the trolls. A road or two has been known to be rerouted in Iceland due to trolls tampering. They cause machines to break down, endless electrical problems. As well as just gernal hijinx. At home behind my keyboard I would secretly scoff at that notion. When you are in the environment, it becomes reality.
Finally arriving at the nation's capital of Reykjavik.The Traffic increases as we wind our way through the streets. From here the experience changes focus from the strikingly beautiful landscapes to the people of this great nation. They speak little, but feel so much. They don’t fill silences in conversations that North American's find uncomfortable with words. Instead they almost find comfort in the quiet like me snuggling in to my moms home made sweaters.They are not usually in a rush, and are honest and sincere in their lives. Crimes are almost absent, and most crimes make headlines in this country. Typically committed by foreigners. The streets and roads feel safe, and business like. We arrive at our destination, and are welcomed heartily into the office. We are taken to a little cafe where we have some of the best fish and chips I have ever had, (not “the best” that may make an article later on.) For now a darn good fish and chip. We talk at length, around life in Iceland, crimes in Iceland as there were just a rash of break ins, and tourism. An amusing story for you. In person if you are new to my company I am often somber, thoughtful and quiet. My wife having a relationship with the two ladies I had not made much conversation, but enough to be polite. Carolina our host is a wonderful large hearted lady, who does not mind your opinion of her. She has in her employ a German girl, who also joined us for lunch. She was many months pregnant, and we were discussing at length what she will do on her maternity leave. There were the usual remarks, but she was concerned at the loss in pay as her husband runs snowmobile tours and tourism was still in an increase but they were discussing what they would do if there was a decline.I said you could always dress the kid up in a penguin costume and get tourists to take pictures with it. “Carolina roars with laughter in this tiny restaurant and thunders in this icelandic english. “He doesn’t say much but when he does….” And just continues to laugh till out of breath. If you ask me why I travel, it is for moments like this, where I will never forget that interaction for the remainder of my life. We leave our company, with warm hugs, and bonds forged. Making our way to our hotel, unencumbered ourselves of our luggage, and head for what we believe is the best way to understand a city. A free walking city tour. We meet an icelander with a name that North americans struggle with, so he goes by Martin, which we made sure to do the Martin, Martyn stick. As we walk through the city, he spins yarns on how the city was founded, the social political and economical landscape, and you get to ask candide questions.The two hour tour gives a great starting point to understand the country, the reason for the curiosities. Not to mention him pointing out the nordic architecture, and all the best places to eat. We feel like with a locals perspective we are being woven into the local tapistry. An indoctrination to the country if you will. The city unfolds before us, we wind our way around the streets, just being present in the moment. Looking in windows of shops, reading menus, and of course people watching. Tonight is the main event for us, the excitement is building. We realized quickly we got our hands on one of the hottest tickets in town. The EUFA international game between Belgium and Iceland. It is a matter of national pride on the line tonight. The energy in the city is palpable, people with viking horns, and others wrapped in belgium flags roll out of pubs arms linked over others shoulders, and national club songs being sung off key at the tops of their lungs. We head back to our hotel to ready ourselves. We are a five to ten minute walk to the stadium, and throughout the city the Belgium invasion had begun. Reds and Yellow flags draped upon the invaders. 30 minutes before the game the procession of people starts migrating past the hotel. We join the hordes, We love both countries, but being in Iceland we were not going to cheer for anyone else. Step by step my excitement builds as we walk to the pitch. Entering the stadium, we feel overwhelmed with energy, and appreciation for being able to enjoy this moment. Most people speak English, and it is easy to join in. Though to really make us feel welcome they speak Icelandic to us, and then apologize. Being Canadian we apologize right back. It makes us feel so welcome, and everyone is so inviting. As we take our seats, we don our new Afrim Island Scarves. Blending in to the point people were speaking icelandic to us again and we just went with it, reading from their body language what they were trying to have us do.. The crowd packs the stadium, no empty seats are left. The chants start from both teams, warm ups begin. Iceland plays hard for the first half, with many good chances. Time to bring out the iconic viking clap. A slow rhythmic clap to a drum beat, that increases to a fervor. The team regains its energy with the home team crowd behind them. Ultimately they fall in defeat the Belgium team besting Iceland. The lights making the turf glow, the crowd seething with hope and anticipation. Seeing some really big stars in both clubs. Seeing the kids idol worship these players. Standing for the anthems and just feeling the national pride, you can’t but feel swept up in the passion. I urge you when in a city, look for these local events, they will be lifetime highlights for you. These are what make trips amazing, after all we travel to experience a place, and there is no better way than joining an event like this. It may not always work out that schedules work out in our favor, but when they do. They are a wonderful experience. As we get back to our hotel, and I misplace my passport to make me think I have left it back in the summer house. The Pizza hut pizza costs nearly as much as a steakhouse dinner out at home. I find my passport and the thought of a midnight run back to a summer house is firmly out of our heads. We are able to sit and think for a moment of what we were able to be part of, and what we were leaving with. What we got back is far better than the price of admission.
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